BY SAM ALFAN.
One of the key suspects in the Sh791million National Youth Service (NYS) scandal, Charity Wangui Gethi, finally appeared yesterday before the Nairobi Senior Principal Magistrate, Martha Mutuku, but applied to be exempted from the criminal proceedings.
Wangui, who is the mother of the alleged mastermind Ben Gethi, had skipped court attendance since the criminal case started and previously defied three arrest warrants. She had shown up for the hearing of the case but it was postponed after the defence team applied for an adjournment.
The defence team is seeking to have Gethi’s sister, Jedidah Wangari, who is also a prime suspect, excluded from the charge sheet since she has never been traced and her belated arrest may interfere with the hearing of the case. They claim the matriarch of the family has a medical condition that may hamper her attendance when required.
The magistrate said the court will deliver its ruling on the applications on December 7. Meanwhile, defence lawyer Joseph Wagara informed the court that he was unable to continue representing Gethi since he had instructed another advocate.
Interestingly, Wangui and controversial businesswoman Josephine Kabura Irungu allegedly jointly bought prime property in the up-market Roselyn Estate in Nairobi in a money-laundering scheme to conceal the source of the funds that were siphoned off the NYS coffers, according to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
The two women reportedly engaged in an arrangement with businessman John Kagi Ndung’u and lawyer Patrick Ogolla Onyango to purchase the Sh63million residential house between December 1, 2014 and April 30, 2015 allegedly using proceeds of crime.
The assets allegedly owned by the suspects in the case have already been attached in a bid to recover the money lost. They are to be preserved pending the hearing and determination of the criminal case.
The properties are situated in Muthaiga North, Rosslyn Estate, Eden Times Restaurant and Mercury Building that is located along Moi Avenue, in Nairobi.
The Asset Recovery Agency said that their investigations revealed massive fraud and embezzlement of public funds and as such attached the properties of the suspects.
Lawyer Ham Langat urged the court to compel the prosecution to produce Wangui saying they risked a re-trial.
“The accused is within the Kenyan jurisdiction and can be traced,” said Langat. “The court is capable of giving orders for her to be availed, failure of which the prosecution should consider terminating proceedings against her.”
He added that the prosecution’s failure to produce the suspect was delaying the hearing of the case.
But the prosecution said Wangui was at large and could not affect proceedings against her co-accused since she was only facing one count.
They added that the defence would not suffer prejudice if the case proceeded without the woman, but said they were searching for her.
But Langat said: “No evidence has been brought before the court to show that she is out of jurisdiction.”
The prosecution further argued that Wangui has never appeared in court despite the issuance of many warrants for her arrest.
Kabura, Gethi and others denied 15 counts of money laundering and were released on Sh300, 000 cash bail each. The alleged offences were committed between December 1, 2014 and March 2015.
The case was fixed for hearing on March 13, 2017.